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Northern Ireland work ethic praised as Japanese online retailer opens fintech office

By John Mulgrew

A Japanese online retail and electronics business is creating 20 jobs at its new office in Belfast.

Rakuten said it is setting up a fintech software development centre in the city.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered Rakuten £140,000 to support its investment.

Rakuten's new centre will focus on developing blockchain technology, which is the technology underpinning the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

Eleven of the 20 new roles are already in place and include positions for both experienced software professionals and graduates.

Yasufumi Hirai, Rakuten's chief information officer and chief information security officer, said: "Northern Ireland is fast becoming a global hub for cyber security professionals and we are keen to leverage the expertise which exists here to drive growth across our businesses.

"Invest NI's support, combined with the availability of local skills and talent, made Northern Ireland our preferred location to establish our unique blockchain lab.

"The engagement and work ethic of the personnel we've recruited locally is impressive and we're confident the team in Belfast will be an invaluable addition to the Rakuten Group."

And Invest NI's chief executive Alastair Hamilton said: "Rakuten is a significant player in global financial technology and its investment to establish the organisation's only blockchain lab in Belfast is a major coup for Northern Ireland.

"The 20 new software engineering roles will generate £855,000 annually in additional salaries and support the ongoing development of Rakuten's global businesses.

"Its focus on ecommerce and fintech will make Rakuten a valuable addition to the cluster of cyber security businesses already investing in Northern Ireland.

"Rakuten has begun to explore opportunities with Queen's University's Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT) and have representatives from their global security team in Japan attending the seventh World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit being held in Belfast next week."

Rakuten has more than one billion customers worldwide and is based across almost 200 countries.

In 2015, it bought over rights to Belfast-based business Bitnet's technology, relating to blockchain software.

Bitnet was created by John McDonnell and Downpatrick man Stephen McNamara.

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